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The Day or The Hour

                At the height of his dissatisfaction with New Pinnacle Church in Multioak, Liam collided his cart with Jeremy Lussig’s cart in the Diamond Food grocery store parking lot. The summer sun draped hot light over everything; the lot was shadeless.

               “Jeremy!” said Liam. “Sorry about the cart, I was watching my feet to make sure I didn’t step in gum. Certain people spit gum all over this parking lot. I’ve seen wads of gum in this parking lot large enough to be composed of four, maybe even five separate pieces of gum.”

               “That’s all right,” said Jeremy. “It’s not my cart. Although I suppose if the store has to replace the carts more often due to damage, they’ll raise their food prices to cover the cost, which will affect all of us.”

               Liam felt guilty. He didn’t want to admit that his carelessness had the potential to result in an outcome as bad as the one described by Jeremy. Besides, it wasn’t general carelessness. He was being very careful about his new sneakers and the gum, but that care necessitated allotting less care to avoiding cart collisions. “I haven’t seen you at church in a few weeks,” said Liam. “Are you going somewhere else now?”

               “In a way,” said Jeremy. His deep-set eyes bulged forward a bit, a sign that he approved of the conversation’s new direction. “I was getting pretty fed up with some things about New Pinnacle, but I’ve heard enough about most of the other area churches to know they aren’t much better. I’ve even been to a few of them and they sure weren’t any better. Some were worse! So I prayed on it and I just really felt led to start a house church.”

               “Huh,” said Liam. “A house church. How’s it going?”

               “Great!” said Jeremy. His hair had thinned to an insubstantial V in the front. His beard was thin, too, but the individual hairs were very evenly dispersed. He wore long shorts and a pale blue polo shirt displaying delicate pit stains. His feet were tanned all around his sandal straps, his toenails were thick, impenetrable. “We’re a body of about fifteen people who faithfully attend,” Jeremy continued. “Which is perfect, because any more and we probably wouldn’t fit in my living room.”

               “Wow, that sounds great,” said Liam. “To tell the truth, I’ve been getting pretty fed up with New Pinnacle too.”

               “They only care about numbers,” said Jeremy.

               “And selling coffee,” said Liam.

               “And making their worship service like a rock concert,” said Jeremy.

               “And getting the staff to write and publish glorified self-help books,” said Liam.

               “And not accepting constructive criticism in person or over the phone or via email,” said Jeremy.

               “Yeah,” said Liam.

               “Well, you’re always welcome at my house church,” said Jeremy. “I’m sure we can squeeze in another folding chair. For your wife too, if she wants.”

               “Thanks for the offer,” said Liam. He began to steer his cart toward his van.

               “So will you be there?” asked Jeremy. “We’ve been discussing some pretty challenging stuff. I’m sure you’d benefit from it as much as we have.”

               “Um,” said Liam. He knew he shouldn’t give Jeremy false hope. “I don’t think I will be there, no. I think I’ll try something else.”

               “There is nothing else,” said Jeremy. “Not anything good. Not around here.”

               “There could be, though,” said Liam.

               Jeremy gave him a level look. “Ah. I got it. Your own house church.”

               Liam shrugged even though that was exactly what he was thinking. “Maybe,” he said. “If there’s any interest.” Distracted, he stepped onto a gob of gum. A small one, and he counted himself fortunate.


               The first three meetings of Liam’s house church were not well attended. The only person other than Liam present for all three was Evie Farms, a woman whose bad experience singing special music at a New Pinnacle women’s conference over a year before had soured her on the church as a whole. She had heard about Liam’s house church through a mutual friend named Gabe Timmons. Gabe came to the first meeting, but “couldn’t make it” to the next two. Also at the first meeting was a young couple who used bad language while requesting prayer for various situations that Liam thought sounded like problems of their own making. Liam didn’t ask them not to cuss, but they seemed to intuit that they weren’t a good fit. The only other person at the first meeting was Amy, Liam’s wife, but she wandered away during the admittedly limp theological discussion and it wasn’t long before Liam heard music coming from their bedroom, and it wasn’t even Christian music.

               The second week, Evie was the only returning attendee, and the only other attendee was a friend she brought with her, a woman whose name Liam never got even though he asked multiple times. Amy didn’t even start out at the meeting this time, she just stayed in the bedroom listening to music and doing whatever else she was doing, but she did agree to keep the volume a little lower. Despite the presence of only two people other than himself, Liam tried to lead a good theological discussion, but it was soon diverted when Evie launched into a long account of the special music disaster at the women’s conference that had soured her on New Pinnacle Church. Apparently Evie’s friend had been in attendance when the disaster happened, and she was eager to interject with observations from the perspective of someone in the audience. But there really wasn’t much to the story. Evie had sung poorly because she wasn’t used to hearing herself through the speakers. She’d had trouble finding the notes. And while she was flailing on stage, she saw some women in the audience shooting glances at each other, covering their mouths to conceal little smiles, even some snickering. Afterward, several women came up to her and told she’d done well, which Evie considered evidence of their fakeness. Anyway, it sounded embarrassing, but it wasn’t the exact kind of dissatisfaction with New Pinnacle Church that Liam had hoped for from members of his home church. But he didn’t say that to Evie, he couldn’t afford to alienate his most faithful supporter.

               Week three was the worst yet. Evie was back, but not her friend. Liam was initially excited because Charles Mash, a dedicated contrarian he knew from a defunct New Pinnacle Bible study, brought his whole family, but that excitement evaporated when Charles complained about the lack of activities for his four kids. Charles said that New Pinnacle might teach outright heresy from the pulpit, but at least they provided activities for his four kids. During the theological discussion, the four kids proved to be more dedicated contrarians than even their father, but with somehow less tact. Charles’s wife Beth also pretended to be mystified as to why she could hear faint secular music, saying things like, “It sounds like it’s coming from somewhere in this house, but that couldn’t be.” The final attendee was a man named Roy who would not explain how he’d heard of Liam’s house church. He wore shabby clothes, sported all possible facial hair, sat silently in the corner the entire time, and said “I won’t be back” when he left.

               Liam surveyed his empty living room. The house church attendees had used it up for the day. Barely past noon on Sunday and the living room was spent, drained dry. And to what good purpose? None.

Oh, but it was hard to not feel depressed about how his house church was going. He wondered how long Jeremy’s house church had taken to get off the ground. Then he remembered that when he’d run into Jeremy in the Diamond Food parking lot, it had only been a few weeks since he’d seen him at church, which meant he’d gotten his house church established almost immediately. Faster than Liam had managed, anyway. But maybe that was the problem? Maybe Jeremy had already sucked up all the good house church attendees. Maybe the pool of dissatisfied former New Pinnacle Church attendees was not large enough for two house churches. Liam would have gladly welcomed dissatisfied former attendees of other area churches, but he didn’t have many contacts with those people. And maybe they’d be too different, theologically speaking? But he also thought that, as a beggar, which he certainly was at this stage, he should probably not try to maintain a false image of himself as a chooser.

He walked down the hall to the bedroom and found Amy asleep on the bed, secular music still playing from the laptop teetering on the corner of her nightstand.

Amy seemed to feel Liam watching her. She opened her eyes and said, “Want to go out for lunch?”

“Yes,” said Liam. He hoped a nice lunch outing would take his mind off of the sorry state of his house church.

They went to a new brunch place called Poached Eg(g) where the second “g” in “Egg” was inside parentheses. Liam asked Amy if the parentheses changed the pronunciation of the word, and Amy said no, they didn’t. Then he asked the hostess the same question and she said that the parentheses did change the pronunciation, but when she demonstrated the proper way to say it, Liam couldn’t hear a difference. It just sounded like “egg.” Then they waited for over an hour to get a table.

After ordering but before receiving their food, Liam noticed Cash Humboldt at a table across the dining room accompanied by a trim, small-haired woman he didn’t recognize. Cash had left New Pinnacle a while ago over a dispute with one of their staff marriage counselors. Liam wondered if the woman eating with Cash was the cause or the result of that dispute.

“I’m gonna go say hi,” said Liam.

“Don’t interrupt them,” said Amy. “You barely know him. Besides, I thought you were trying to take your mind off of the house church.”

               “I am,” said Liam.

               “No you’re not,” said Amy. “You’re trying to recruit him.”

               “Not necessarily,” said Liam.

               When Cash noticed Liam approaching his table, his round face tightened and reddened. He said something to the woman sitting across from him that made her look uncomfortable. Liam tried a friendly wave to defuse the animosity, but it didn’t work. As soon as he got to the table, Cash said, “Leave us alone. I am never going back to New Pinnacle. Do you know what I call New Pinnacle now? I call it ‘New Nadir,’ and if people don’t know what that means, then I call it ‘New Low’ and they get the picture, and maybe they learn a new word in the process.”

               “Ha ha,” said Liam “‘New Nadir,’ that’s a good one. You wouldn’t need the follow-up for me. I already know what ‘nadir’ means.”

               “Don’t pretend you think it’s funny,” said Cash. “Don’t pretend you can win me back with false self-deprecation. I’m never going back. I’ve found something better. Much better.” He used the napkin tucked into his western-style shirt to dab his cheeks. He had a fussy fury.

               Liam thought maybe Cash meant the woman at his table was the much better thing he’d found, but when Liam glanced at her, she didn’t seem flattered. She seemed irritated that someone had again brought this subject to the front of Cash’s mind. She bit a bite of sausage from her fork. Her lipstick was a color Amy would accuse him of not being able to name, and she would be right. “But I’m not trying to get you to go back to New Pinnacle,” said Liam. “I left New Pinnacle too. I hate it now.”

               Cash looked skeptical. “You do? Why?”

               “Because they only care about filling the seats,” said Liam.

               Cash adopted a silly, foppish voice and said, “‘Oh, oh, mustn’t make anyone feel bad! Mustn’t offend anyone’s delicate sensibilities!’”

               “Exactly,” said Liam, adding a pretty authentic chuckle. “They only care about t-shirt designs. Every event has to have a new t-shirt design.”

               “‘Mustn’t seem uncool!” said Cash, continuing his impression of some imagined member of the New Pinnacle pastoral staff, presumably. “‘Mustn’t seem irrelevant! Mustn’t seem out of touch! Mustn’t give any credence to an ill-treated husband’s version of events! No, certainly mustn’t ever do that!’”

               “Exactly,” said Liam, his chuckle was awful. He wished he could attempt another take. But it turned out to be a blessing because it seemed to jar Cash out of the character he was embodying.

               “Anyway,” said Cash. “Where are you going now that you’ve seen the light regarding New Pinnacle? Or should I say ‘New Nadir?’”

               Liam didn’t even attempt a chuckle. Cash’s new wife or girlfriend or whoever she was didn’t feel obligated to attempt any laughs, so why should he? “I actually started my own house church,” said Liam. Amy was right. He had approached Cash with the intention of recruiting him. Although he hoped Cash wouldn’t do that voice at house church.

               “Oh, that’s great,” said Cash. “House churches are the way to go. You know Jeremy Lussig? Me and Viv have been going to his house church for a couple weeks now. It’s great. How many people you have coming to yours?”

               “Well, we’re just getting started,” said Liam. “Trying to get the word out.”

               “Jeremy’s packing us in at his place,” said Cash. “Actually had to knock out a wall so we could spill over into the dining room. I think we’re averaging around 35 now.”

               “Wow,” said Liam. “That’s impressive.” He didn’t know if Cash or Viv could detect the envy in his voice, but it was there for the detecting. “If you don’t mind my asking,” said Liam, “what do you guys like so much about Jeremy’s house church?”

               “Easy,” said Cash. “It’s the Rapture predictions.”


               It didn’t look like the removal of the wall between Jeremy’s living room and dining room had been the work of professionals. Nor the work of skilled amateurs, even. There were mismatched varieties of folding chairs crammed into most available space between more permanent furnishings in both rooms.

               “Sit anywhere,” said Jeremy. He motioned all around himself.

               Liam chose a spot on the couch.

               “Good choice,” said Jeremy. He plopped into a recliner opposite Liam and extended the footrest with a violent crank of the lever, exposing the discolored bottoms of his socks to Liam’s view. Jeremy also wore long dark cargo shorts and a white t-shirt just long enough to cover the very tops of the shorts’ vacant belt loops. His hair gave the impression of a recent yet impotent combing.

               “I ran into Cash Humboldt the other day,” said Liam. “He had some interesting things to say about your house church.”

               Jeremy immediately intuited Liam’s purpose. “Oh yeah? And you’re here to chastise me for the Rapture predictions, huh?”

               “No, not chastise you,” said Liam. “That’s not my place. But just…” He trailed off. He had kind of been hoping to gain the upper hand with Jeremy via some light chastisement.

               “How do I know when the Rapture is coming?” asked Jeremy. “Is that what you’re asking? I used Scripture, interpreted prophecy, and calculated it. I could walk you through it, but it would take hours. And I don’t know if you have the requisite, uh, giftings.”

               “‘No man knows the day or the hour,’” said Liam. “Jesus said that. What about that? Doesn’t your claim to know contradict the Bible?”

               “Oh, that,” said Jeremy. Condescension seeped from his smile. “At first I only calculated which week the Rapture would happen since that’s less specific than ‘hour’ or ‘day.’ But then I realized, wait, Jesus used the present tense of the verb ‘to know.’ So really, it’s pretty simple. He was saying no one at the time knew the day or the hour, but he didn’t say that no one ever would know the day or the hour. So it doesn’t contradict the Bible at all that, thousands of years after Jesus said it, I now do know the day and the hour.”

               Liam had no rebuttal. Jeremy’s defense seemed airtight to him. Not that he was a trained scholar or anything. “So when do you predict it’s going to happen?” asked Liam.

               “July 12th,” said Jeremy. “At 6:07 p.m.”

               “But that’s less than a week away,” said Liam.

               “Yeah,” said Jeremy. “Me and the members of my house church are very excited for Jesus to come back and take us to Heaven. Not saying that we’re the only ones He’ll be taking, just that we’ll be the most ready for it. We’re all going to gather here that evening so we can get raptured together as a house church.”

               “You seem pretty smug about it,” said Liam, letting his antipathy slip for the first time.

               “Not smug,” said Jeremy. “Just confident. Assured. Certain. That’s what the members of my house church like about my house church.” He paused. “And how has your house church been going, Liam?”

               “Are we comparing attendance now?” asked Liam. “Congratulations, Jeremy, you’re the New Pinnacle of house churches. Using carnival sideshow tactics to boost numbers.”

               “It’s not a sideshow tactic,” said Jeremy. “It’s the truth. The members of my house church are drawn to the truth. That’s why so many of them have bounced around between so many churches. They just couldn’t find one that offered the truth. Until now, of course. When we meet in Heaven on the evening of July 12th in our glorified states, I hope my state won’t be too glorified for me to share a simple ‘I told you so’ with you. Assuming you’re there, of course.”

               “I won’t be there,” said Liam.

               “I’m sorry to hear that,” said Jeremy. “But would you like to know how you could know for sure that you will be there?”

               “I won’t be there because no one will be there!” shouted Liam. He rose from the couch before he thought to add, “Except for dead people!” Then Liam stormed out of Jeremy’s house, stormed into his car, and stormed home.


               At breakfast the next morning, Liam stared pensively into his coffee mug, swirling the coffee, watching it swirl, muttering “huh” and “hmm” and “it had to be” in hopes that Amy would ask him what was on his mind, but when she didn’t, he had to just come out and say, “I think I had a vision last night.”

               “A dream,” said Amy as she mushed the halves of her bagel between her palms so they would fit into the toaster’s narrow slots.

               “No, I think it was a vision,” said Liam. “I was awake when it came to me.”

               “I doubt it,” said Amy. “You were lying in bed in the dark with your pajamas on and your head on your pillow and the covers pulled up around your chin and your eyes closed all night.”

               “How would you know?” asked Liam.

               “Well, that’s how you were every time I looked,” said Amy.

               “How often did you look?” asked Liam.

               Amy shrugged. It was surprising how slim she could get those bagel halves. It had started as quite a plump bagel, and now look at it. Even with the halves re-combined, it would be a third of its original size. And Amy wasn’t done compressing!

               “Anyway,” said Liam, “none of those factors preclude my being awake and experiencing a vision.”

               Amy said nothing.

               “I believe it was a vision from God,” said Liam.

               “Wow,” said Amy. “If it was, then that would be really good for your house church.” The bagel halves were now flat enough to both fit in one slot together. Amy now seemed driven by a higher purpose. Perhaps to set a world record for bagel half flatness.

               “I wasn’t thinking that far ahead,” said Liam, although he had been. “I’ve just been so troubled, so…gripped by what I saw.”

               “And what was it that you saw?” asked Amy. She sounded less not-curious than Liam had expected based on the trajectory of the conversation, which emboldened him.

               “I saw Jesus coming back to Earth,” said Liam. “I saw the Rapture.”

               Amy turned so that Liam could not see her face, but she stopped flattening the bagel halves. In fact, she dropped them into the toaster slots, although she did not press the lever down.

               “I was in the Bound for Books parking lot. In that nice strip mall there, the one with the expensive mattress store and that place where you get the candles. And I looked up and there was this broad, flat cloud hovering over the whole strip mall. And Jesus was on the cloud, he was very tall, and he was surrounded by animals. Wild animals. Lions, giraffes, wolves, elephants, rams, toucans, and the animals all had perfectly round eyes on the fronts of their heads, staring straight ahead without blinking. And then it ended, and I was there in bed, but it didn’t feel like a dream, not at all, and I’ve been troubled ever since, I’ve been gripped by what I saw.”

               “It’s too bad your vision didn’t give you a date,” said Amy. “And a time.” She pressed the toaster lever down. The bagel halves disappeared with ease.

               “Huh!” said Liam. “You mean you think it could have been a sign that the Rapture is imminent? You think it was a prophetic vision that God sent to me so I could share it with others?”

               “Not if there was no date,” said Amy. “Probably just a dream you had because you argued with Jeremy about his Rapture prediction.”

               “No,” said Liam. “No, it was more than that. Maybe it will come to me again. With more information, this time.”

               “Maybe so,” said Amy. “Can’t say I’d be shocked.” The smell of burning bagel filled the kitchen, but that was how Amy liked them.


               On the evening of July 12th, Liam drove to Jeremy’s house so he could be present to witness Jeremy’s downfall when his Rapture prediction failed to come true. Then, in the aftermath, Liam would invite all of the disillusioned people in Jeremy’s house church to join his house church instead. Would all of them defect? Probably not. Some might be so disillusioned that they’d give up on church entirely, even house church. But no doubt many of them would be looking for a reasonable alternative. Even if only a few switched to Liam’s house church, it would be well worth it. Five new, good attendees would be a great start. Amy might even attend again if the gatherings weren’t so pathetic.

               There were a lot of cars in Jeremy’s driveway and parked on both sides of the street in front of his house. Liam was annoyed. There were never parking issues at his house church. He tried the handles of a few of the cars and found them locked. Why did these people lock their cars if they thought they were going to be raptured? Why not just leave the keys in the ignition?

               From Jeremy’s front walk, Liam heard singing coming from inside the house. Someone was playing guitar. They were singing a song popular with the New Pinnacle worship team. It had a line in it that Liam had always especially hated: “Your love is like the embrace of a radiant fortress.” Just nonsense. Faux-poetic mixed metaphor gibberish.

               The front door was unlocked. Liam let himself in. All the folding chairs were gone and the larger furniture had been pushed into corners; there was standing room only. The attendees were singing mostly with eyes closed and hands raised. Jeremy stood where the wall between living room and dining room had been, playing guitar. His eyes were open, though, and they latched onto Liam as soon as he came through the door. Jeremy did not appear pleased to see Liam. For his part, Liam wasn’t pleased to see that Jeremy knew how to play guitar. But no, surely that wouldn’t be enough to override a false Rapture prediction.

               A large clock on the wall said it was just after 6:00 p.m. The clock looked new. Liam wondered if Jeremy had bought it specifically for this event. The same song that Liam had heard the house church singing as he approached continued. It was a song in desperate need of truncation, but these idiots seemed to be extending it. He examined the faces in the room for people he knew. He recognized several other former New Pinnacle members. There was Cash Humboldt and Viv. Liam felt a stab when he recognized Roy, the shabby, bearded, silent man who had attended his house church on week three and then told Liam he wouldn’t be back. But here, he wasn’t silent. He was belting out the words to the song in ecstasy, tears streaming down his cheeks and disappearing within his facial hair.

               Two minutes before 6:07, Jeremy brought the song to a dramatic conclusion, then unslung his guitar and set it aside. Everyone fell silent, turning to listen to whatever words he had to offer.

               “We’re very close now,” said Jeremy. “Close to eternity. Close to Heaven.”

               The house church attendees applauded with feeling, some of them whooped. Liam smirked, but he couldn’t deny a rising agitation, a nagging voice inside asking the worst question: what if Jeremy’s right?

               “As the last minute of this age ticks away,” said Jeremy, “I want you all to know how much I love you, how much I appreciate your support, and how much I cherish your unwavering belief in my calculations. And remember, even though I calculated that the Rapture will occur at 6:07, it might not be 6:07 on the dot. It could be at any second during the minute between 6:07 and 6:08. All right, with that said, let’s all join hands and we’ll all be together in Heaven soon. Almost all of us, anyway.”

He didn’t look at Liam when he added the last part, but Liam knew it was meant for him. Liam also refused to join hands with the softly smiling man on his left and the softly smiling woman on his right. They reached around him and joined hands with each other.

Nothing happened at 6:07. The attendees waited patiently. At 6:08, Jeremy said, “We’ll give it another minute in case my clock is fast.” At 6:15, he finally called it. “Welp,” he said, “I guess my calculations were off. I’ll have to check over them again to see where I went wrong. Sorry, everyone, but thanks for coming. I’ll get back to you soon with the revised date and time.”

A murmur of mild disappointment went through the congregants. Someone called, “That’s OK, Pastor, thanks for having us! We know you’ll get it soon!” Some people said their goodbyes and headed for the door, others broke into small groups to chat, but no one seemed upset.

“Wait!” shouted Liam. “Hold on!”

The assembled people turned to see who was shouting. Cash and Viv, half way out the front door, came back inside to see what the disruption was about. Jeremy shook his head at Liam from across the room, but Liam didn’t know what it meant. Not exactly, anyway.

“You’re going to accept this from your house church leader?” asked Liam. It had galled him the way that guy had referred to Jeremy as “Pastor.” Come on. “His Rapture prediction was wrong. Completely wrong! That doesn’t bother you?”

“At least he admits his mistakes,” said someone.

“If you think you’re perfect, go to a different church,” said someone else.

“I do go to a different church,” said Liam. “There’s a house church that meets at my house, actually, and I have never made a false Rapture prediction.”

“They aren’t false predictions,” said a man on crutches next to Liam. “They’re just calculation errors. We’ve all made calculation errors before. He’s a pastor, not a mathematician.”

“Predictions?” asked Liam. “Plural? He’s made more than one?”

“At least he’s trying,” called a woman from the back edge of the dining room. “Have you even tried to predict the Rapture?”

“No!” said Liam. “Of course not!”

A different woman stepped forward and pointed both index fingers at Liam’s chest. “How come it’s always the people too afraid to actually do something who are most willing to criticize people who are actually doing something?”

Liam was losing. In fact, he had lost. Lost the evening, at least. He pushed his way to the front door, expecting trips and shoves, but Jeremy’s house church was too Christian for that. They loved their enemies, it seemed, or at least didn’t trip or shove them. When Liam go to the door, Cash broke out the voice again. “‘Oh, I’m envious of someone else’s house church! Oh, lemme go see if I can sneak away some members for myself! Oh, maybe acting like an arrogant know-it-all will entice people!’” Liam would have preferred a trip, a shove, or both.


On Sunday morning, Liam was tempted to head straight for Jeremy’s house church, but he decided he should wait just to see if anyone showed up for his own house church. Maybe, despite their initial resistance, some members of Jeremy’s house church had been moved by Liam’s words once they gave them some thought. But no, Evie was the only person who showed up.

“You can come with me,” said Liam.

“But where are we going?” asked Evie.

“To a different house church,” said Liam. “There’s something I need to share with them.”

“And you want me to come?” asked Evie.

“For support,” said Liam. “You don’t have to. I just thought I’d invite you since you’re the only one who bothered to show up.”

               “It’s no bother,” said Evie. “I live close. That’s my favorite thing about your house church. It’s so close to my house.”

               “All right, then don’t come,” said Liam.

               “I guess I’ll go with you,” said Evie. “It’d be nice to have church with more people. Is Amy coming?”

               “She is not,” said Liam.

               At Jeremy’s house, Liam again let himself in, holding the door for Evie to follow. There were fewer people than had gathered for the Rapture on the 12th, but no available chairs. Liam and Evie had to sit on the floor against the wall next to the door. Liam didn’t mind much, though. The memory of his previous exit from this space made proximity to the door desirable. Of course, he hoped things would go better for him this time. It seemed unlikely based on the looks attendees were shooting his way, but they hadn’t heard what he had to say yet.

               Jeremy was seated in the same chair he’d sat in when Liam had first come to confront him about his Rapture prediction. His feet were propped on the footrest in the same way, too, which didn’t seem pastoral to Liam, but Jeremy’s socks were better this time. Or else the fact that they were black hid how dirty and worn they were. Jeremy had a large Bible open in his lap and he shuffled between many pages of loose-leaf notes. He explained his most recent calculations, read news headlines related to prophecy, read snatches of Scripture, cited some statistics about earthquake frequency. Liam couldn’t follow it. A visual aid would have helped, maybe, or maybe he would have needed to attend all of the previous meetings of Jeremy’s house church. Or maybe everyone else was just as confused as Liam was, but they didn’t want to show it, they didn’t want to admit it, not to anyone else and not to themselves.

                Jeremy was wrapping up. “And so,” he said, “my new prediction – and I’m very sure this time, very confident, as I’m sure you are too after this extensive run-through of my methodology – but my new prediction, the correct one this time, is that the Rapture will occur on July 17th at 6:07 p.m. So I was right about the time of day, just not the date itself, but all that’s been straightened out.”

               An appreciative buzz ran through the room. Liam let it subside, then rose to his feet and said, “Wrong.”

               He heard several people groan. A scoff or two.

               “And how would you know?” asked Jeremy. He was so cozy in his recliner. Blanketed in his prediction materials. “What would you know about any of this? How would you have any idea when the Rapture is or is not going to happen?”

               Liam paused. He hoped it was dramatic. No way to know, in the moment, but he could ask Evie later. “Because,” he finally said. “I’ve had a vision.”

               Another buzz went through the room. Liam’s buzz this time. There were gasps, too. He hoped the people who had scoffed were the same people who had now gasped.

               “A vision,” said Jeremy. He made the word sound like a sharp pin poised to puncture.

               “A vision from God,” said Liam.

               This time, Evie gasped.

               Liam glanced down at her. She looked shocked, which irritated him. He would have preferred that the one attendee of his house church in attendance at this house church not appear shocked that God would send him a vision.

               “And this vision from God,” said Jeremy. “Your claim is that it contradicts my Rapture prediction somehow? What happened? An angel told you I’m a fraud?”

               “You weren’t mentioned at all,” said Liam. “There was nothing about you in the vision. I’m not saying that God doesn’t know you exist – of course He knows you exist – but I’m just saying that you wouldn’t know it from the content of my vision.”

               Liam could see that one stung a little. That one burned a little. Jeremy squirmed a little in his chair. “Why don’t you share your visions with your own house church and leave us alone, Liam?”

               “Because these people are the ones who need to hear it more,” said Liam. “These people are the ones being led astray.”

               “That and you brought your whole house church with you,” said Jeremy. “Right?”

               Now it was Liam’s turn to feel the sting, the burn, to squirm. Time to drop the bombshell. “God revealed the actual day and time of the Rapture to me. In my vision.”

               Jeremy was speechless. Or, he didn’t speak. Liam wasn’t sure if there was a difference, but either way – speechless or simply not speaking – he took advantage of the opening. “Let me describe it for you all,” he said. And then he did, exactly as he’d described it to Amy. The strip mall parking lot, the cloud, Jesus, the animals and their strange round staring eyes. But there was also the new part on the end, the part he’d only just remembered while lying awake in bed the night after Jeremy’s failed Rapture party. “And as the cloud approached,” said Liam, “I pulled my phone out of my pocket to look at the time and date, and there it was, as clear as day: July 19th at 3:30 p.m.”

               But for many chairs creaking, silence followed. Then someone asked, “July 19th of this year?”

               “Yes,” said Liam. “I should have mentioned that. But yes.”


               Evie was in Jeremy’s bathroom. Everyone else had gone to their lunches with friends and families, their Sunday afternoon naps, their day of rest yard work.

               “You screwed up,” said Jeremy. He was out of his chair and sipping a can of sparkling water. He had not offered Liam a drink.

               “How so?” asked Liam.

               “3:30 p.m.,” said Jeremy. “That’s the middle of the work day. People aren’t going to leave work early to come to your Rapture get-together.”

               “Why would that matter?” asked Liam. “Why would they care about their jobs when the Rapture’s happening?”

               “Because what if it doesn’t?” asked Jeremy. “That’s what they’ll all be thinking.”

               “Because you’ve conditioned them to think that way,” said Liam. “With your multiple wrong predictions.”

               “New revelation,” said Jeremy. “Special revelation. That’s a tricky one. I can always recalculate, but what are you gonna do? Say that vision wasn’t from God after all? Have a new vision except this time you’re sure it’s from God?”

               Liam studied Jeremy’s facial expression, his posture, the tone of his voice. How open were they being with each other? Were they peers, equals? “If I am wrong,” said Liam. “And I’m not saying that I am, because I’m not, but if I am, then it will be because I incorrectly interpreted the vision.”

               Jeremy nodded. “Not bad. Except the date and time were such specific elements of the vision. Right there on your phone, right? Kind of hard to interpret that in a different way.”

               Liam shot a look down the hallway. What was taking Evie so long?

               “It’s amateurish,” said Jeremy. “Being so on the nose with the elements in the vision. You didn’t leave yourself any wiggle room. Which I think my people appreciated. You might get more at your event than I initially thought. Ten of them, maybe. But it’ll be one and done for them. They won’t come back to you.”

               “Because they’ll have been raptured,” said Liam.

               Evie emerged from the hall drying her hands with a full-size bath towel. She handed it to Jeremy. “This is yours,” she said. “It was hanging in the bathroom.”

               This time when Jeremy said nothing, it was definitely speechlessness.


               As un-raptured people trickled out of Jeremy’s house on the evening of the 17th, Liam stood at the end of the front walk and handed out invitations. Many seemed interested. But with that interest, Liam felt the pressure rising for his Rapture event on the 19th to be a success. If the Rapture could actually occur, that would be a big help.

Liam took the day off of work on the 19th, but woke up early and couldn’t go back to sleep. Should he get more chairs? Jeremy didn’t have chairs at his Rapture events, but that seemed to be due to the sheer volume of attendees. Liam didn’t think it wise to assume the attendance at his event would be comparable. And what would he do to fill the time between people arriving at 3:00 and the Rapture at 3:30? He didn’t know how to play the guitar. He called Evie and asked if she was planning on coming to the gathering.

               “Of course!” said Evie.

               “You don’t have to work?” asked Liam.

               “Nope,” said Evie. “I quit my job.”

               “Oh,” said Liam. He groped for an appropriate transition to what he was trying to ask.

               “Because I’m going to be in Heaven this afternoon,” said Evie. “So my position was going to be vacant tomorrow whether I quit or not!”

               “Right,” said Liam. “So when people get here, would you mind leading everyone in some songs?”

               Evie fell silent.

               “There won’t be any amplification,” said Liam. “And no instruments. It’ll be acapella. So you shouldn’t have any trouble hearing yourself and staying on key.”

               It sounded like Evie had begun to hyperventilate.

               “It won’t be anything like what happened at the New Pinnacle women’s conference,” said Liam. “Which I only mention because I know that whole thing really upset you.”

               More people showed up than the ten Jeremy had guessed. There were 17. Evie was not among them, but it was gratifying to see Roy. He had said he wouldn’t be back, and now he was back. Whatever else happened, Rapture or no Rapture, that was a win right there.

Rather than sing, Liam had everyone stand in a circle and say what they were most excited to do in Heaven. Most of the answers were short, so when everyone had shared, Liam asked them to say what they were least excited to do in Heaven. Two answers in, he realized it was a bad question, so he changed it to who they were most excited to see in Heaven. There was a lot of overlap with the answers to the first question because a lot of people had said the thing they were most excited to do was “see Jesus,” and now those same people were saying the person they were most excited to see was Jesus. So Liam changed the question to who they were most excited to see in Heaven other than Jesus. This was more successful since most people said dead relatives, but since they had different dead relatives, there was more variety in their answers, at least. A few people said they were most excited to see some dead rock stars who Liam was pretty sure would not be in Heaven, but he didn’t say so even though he really, really wanted to. He didn’t want to upset anyone. Did that mean he was selling out?

“Hey,” said an old man with a suspiciously beery belly. “It’s 3:32.”

Was it really? Liam looked at his phone to confirm. Wow, the time had really slipped away while he was trying to make the Heaven discussion work. He looked up at the circle of expectant faces. They didn’t appear troubled. They were used to this, they knew the routine. They would accept Liam’s explanation and head home to enjoy the rest of their free afternoon.

“I’m sorry,” said Liam. “I guess I misinterpreted the vision. I’ll have to reconsider the elements of the vision. Or wait to receive another one. Maybe that will clarify things.” He waited for protests, for pointed questions, but they never came.

Someone’s phone chimed. A woman with dangly cross earrings pulled her phone from her purse and checked the screen. “New email from Pastor Jeremy,” she announced. “Oh! A new Rapture prediction! July 20th at 8:43 p.m.! That’s tomorrow. And a late one! I like the late ones.”

Some people agreed. Some people disagreed. They all left in good moods.

Amy called Liam from work. When he picked up, she said, “Oh, so there’s reception in Heaven?”

“The Rapture didn’t happen,” said Liam. “My prediction was wrong.”

“So that’s that,” said Amy.

“Maybe,” said Liam.

“So that isn’t that,” said Amy. “You’re going to try again. But why would anyone listen to you now?”

“They know it’s tough,” said Liam. “They respect the effort.”

“I don’t,” said Amy.

“I know,” said Liam.

A few minutes later, Evie called in great distress. “I quit my job, Liam! I don’t think they’ll hire me back. My boss was mad.”

He wished she would call him “Pastor” like Jeremy’s people did for him. And he wished she wouldn’t hold him accountable for his wrong prediction. That was another way Jeremy’s people were better than her. And he wished she wasn’t so hung up on that special music incident at New Pinnacle. And he wished she hadn’t said that the best part about his house church was that it was close to her home, but then also said that she wanted to go with him to Jeremy’s house church because she wanted to actually have church with more people for a change. He wished she hadn’t quit her job, wished she hadn’t called him to complain about it, and wished that almost anyone else in town had filled the role of his most faithful attendee.


The Rapture did not happen on July 20th. Then, when Liam did have another vision, albeit a slightly more obscure one, and predicted that the Rapture would happen on the 23rd at 7:07 p.m., the attendance at his gathering was better than the first time, but the Rapture didn’t happen. Jeremy fired back with another prediction, this one for July 25th at 2:12 a.m. The earliness of the hour stirred some excitement for its novelty, but in the end, attendance was poor and the Rapture didn’t happen. Liam reinterpreted his first vision, used that interpretation as a fresh lens through which to view his second vision, and arrived at July 28th at 5:59 p.m. as the exact date and time of the Rapture. Even with this rigorous approach and convenient meeting time – people could just drop in on their way home work, then get dinner afterward if the Rapture didn’t happen – attendance reached a new low. Only nine people showed up and, again, there was no Rapture. Furthermore, when Liam launched into his explanation as to what might have gone wrong with his interpretation this time, the attendees were visibly annoyed. One rolled her eyes. Another gave Liam a solemn thumbs down.

Lying in bed at 11:00 on the night of July 29th, Liam got a phone call from Jeremy.

“It was bad tonight,” said Jeremy. “Very bad. Only six people showed up. Do you know Cash Humboldt? He did an insulting impression of me. The voice sounded nothing like mine, but it shook me.”

“I know the voice,” said Liam. “What was the time for tonight’s prediction?”

“8:20,” said Jeremy.

“Ouch,” said Liam. “Not too early, not too late. Six people? That’s worse than my most recent one.”

“I’m not calling to throw blame around,” said Jeremy. “But this is your fault. We’re oversaturated.”

“We should have spread the predictions out more,” said Liam.

“I used to!” said Jeremy. “But you would have slipped in a few in a row if I gave you the breathing room.”

Liam didn’t deny it. “So what do we do?”

“Either you agree to step aside,” said Jeremy. “Say the visions dried up, that they were never from God…”

“Never,” said Liam. “I’d be a false prophet! They’d stone me!”

“No, they wouldn’t,” said Jeremy. “Not literally.”

“What’s the other option?” asked Liam. “You made it sound like there was another option.”

“We could team up,” said Jeremy. “Make our predictions line up. Say that my calculations back up your visions and vice versa.”

Liam looked at Amy out of the corner of his eye. She was glaring at the pages of the open book in her lap. He could tell that she was hearing both ends of his phone conversation, and she was not happy about where it was headed. But what else could he do? Go crawling back to New Pinnacle like a chump? Find some other church where they’d inevitably serve communion too often or show movie clips during the sermon or obsess over building projects? Stop going to church entirely like a lousy backslider?

“Let’s do it,” said Liam.


Jeremy’s house was packed. There were people in the dining room, in the living room, in the hall, even people on the porch. Many of them had left their cars unlocked all up and down Jeremy’s block. Many of them had quit their jobs. Some had sold their possessions. They sang with great fervor, swaying in rhythm as much as the close quarters would allow. Liam stood next to Jeremy as he played guitar, co-leading the worship in spirit if not in any practical way. He didn’t see Evie anywhere, which was a relief, but it also meant he was the only representative of his house church. Everyone else was mostly here because of Jeremy. But that was the wrong way to look at it. The people were here in such strong numbers because of Liam, too, because he had joined forces with Jeremy. He had restored Jeremy’s legitimacy just as Jeremy had restored his. These people were their people.

The song came to a close. Everyone held hands. Liam’s right hand grasped Jeremy’s left hand. Liam’s left hand grasped the hand of a teenager he’d never seen before. There were many more kids than usual. The people hadn’t settled for babysitters tonight.

Jeremy gave his speech. It was very similar to the first one Liam had heard him give. Then Liam gave a similar speech. He had wanted to say something distinct from what Jeremy said, but was afraid straying too far would seem like rambling, would perhaps venture into irrelevance.

Then, at the predicted time – 9:12 p.m. on July 31st – everyone in Jeremy’s living room disappeared. Everyone except Liam and Jeremy. Liam felt it before his eyes registered it: his left hand suddenly empty, his right hand still full of Jeremy’s sweaty fingers. Where dozens of people had been, there were now only piles of their clothes. Liam was embarrassed to see the undergarments some of the people had been wearing, it felt improper. Some of them did not seem appropriate to wear to a Rapture get-together. He let go of Jeremy’s hand.

“What happened?” asked Jeremy.

“Not sure,” said Liam. “But it wasn’t the Rapture. We were wrong again.”

“Yeah,” said Jeremy. “That much is obvious.”

Liam helped Jeremy push his furniture back into place. Then he said good night, walked past all the empty unlocked cars, unlocked his car, and went home. Amy was sitting on the porch steps enjoying the night air and texting with her sisters who lived out of state.

“Hey,” said Liam, sitting down next to her. “Have you heard anything about any mass disappearances? Unmanned cars crashing into each other on the highway? Miraculously reformed prisoners vanishing from locked cells?”

“No,” said Amy. “But Evie called. She tried calling you but she said she couldn’t get through. She wants to know if you still want her to try to sing at house church. She said she’s been praying about it and she thinks she’s ready to give it a try.”

“I blocked her number,” said Liam.

“You did?” asked Amy. “Why? That wasn’t very nice.”

“She’s fake,” said Liam. “She’s a hypocrite.”

“She is?” asked Amy. “How do you know?”

“When you’re in ministry long enough,” said Liam, “you learn to read people.”

Discussion Questions

  • Does the term “house church” seem contradictory to you? Do you imagine that all churches must have steeples, pulpits, baptismal tanks? GROW UP!

  • Do you think New Pinnacle Church in Multioak should invest in a Rogue’s Gallery exhibit with large, framed portraits of their most troublesome former members? List several of the many ways such a display would edify the body.

  • How accurate would someone’s mimicry of your voice need to be in order for you to be hurt by their impression of you?

  • If you HAD to predict the Rapture, would you prefer to calculate it or have it revealed to you via new revelation? What date and time would you ultimately predict?

  • How many incorrect Rapture predictions would it take for you to become skeptical of someone’s Rapture-predicting abilities?